Whilst first and foremost a literary scholar who focuses on the work of John Milton (1608–74), David Loewenstein has, in recent years, done much to undertake and encourage interdisciplinary research into the religio-political culture of early modern England.
Have pity upon poor Andrew Melville. Once he was a towering figure in Presbyterian Scotland, John Knox’s successor as a leader of men, chastiser of proud monarchy and preacher of the truth. A student at St Andrews at the time of the Scottish Reformation, Melville spent a decade studying and teaching in France and Geneva.
The first rigorous academic overview of witchcraft in Ireland, this publication is a very welcome addition to a growing corpus of scholarship on this relatively neglected aspect of Irish social and cultural history. For decades, St John D. Seymour’s Irish Witchcraft and Demonology (1) was the only academic text on the subject available to researchers.
Thomas Ahnert’s The Moral Culture of the Scottish Enlightenment is an unusual work. Little more than an extended essay, its brevity and lucidity belie the complexity and force of its central thesis. Whilst there is no doubt that the book represents an important historiographical intervention, it is rather harder to explain why or where it does so.
Exile has long been central to our understanding of certain Early Modern topics. The flight of English Protestants, and then Catholics, to the Continent in the 16th century, or the exodus of Huguenots (many to England and Ireland) after the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in the 17th, are perhaps the best known examples to UK audiences.
Frances Yates’ seminal book Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic Tradition (1964), which established a longstanding scholarly orthodoxy that Renaissance magic derived from interpretations of the Hermetic Corpus, has been challenged in its details by Bruno scholars and others.
Every mode of writing history has its attendant dangers. The problem with so much conventional political and religious history is that it is an attempt to explain what actually happened. This seems sensible enough, of course, but it inevitably privileges the ways in which the successful historical actors valued their actions, as well as almost inevitably concentrating on an elite.
This is an extremely ambitious, thought-provoking, challenging and inspiring book.
Since the turn of the millennium it has become increasingly common for general histories of magic and witchcraft to include a section on the phenomenon of magic in the contemporary western world, but the precise relationship between contemporary manifestations of magical belief and their historical antecedents is rarely explored.
Francis Young’s Magic as a Political Crime in Medieval and Early Modern England makes an important contribution to both the historiography of political culture in medieval and early modern England and the historiography of magic. This book develops ideas from Young’s previous monograph English Catholics and the Supernatural, 1553–1829.